The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time for 2020 Democrats in Detroit debate




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Crunch time has arrived for the 2020 Democratic presidential field as the second series of debates kicks off tonight in Detroit and candidates look to give their bids a shot in the arm as they push to qualify for the September debates. 


While he won’t partake in tonight’s affairs, the attention is squarely on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE as he looks to rebound from a shaky performance just over a month ago in Miami and reestablish himself as the unquestioned front-runner for the Democratic nod to take on Trump next year. 


While Biden has made a point to fully embrace the work undertaken by the Obama administration, that philosophy is showing some cracks ahead of the debate as he is expected to take shots on a number of fronts stemming from actions while he served as former President Obama’s top deputy. Among them are the administration’s record of deportations and treatment of immigrants at the border and his full embrace of the Affordable Care Act as some of his rivals embrace a version of “Medicare for All.” 


As Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes write, Biden has wrapped himself in the 44th president, from using the same campaign songs to his telling of folksy stories on the campaign trail about their enduring friendship. When Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOvernight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Team Trump criticizes Sanders for vote against USMCA MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Team Trump criticizes Sanders for vote against USMCA MORE (D-N.J.) questioned the former vice president’s record on race and criminal justice, the former vice president shot back that the nation’s first black president would not have tapped him as vice president if there were questions lingering on those issues.


However, Biden has seemingly adopted a go-it-alone game plan. He said last week during a fundraiser that he won’t use Obama as a “crutch” in his campaign and that his bid is not a “continuation” of the Obama-Biden administration because there are “new problems” on the scene that did not exist at that time. He is making it a point to look to the future as he endures criticisms that he is a candidate of the past and a bygone era. 


As Biden readies for his turn on stage on Wednesday night, he is buoyed by multiple polls that continue to show him in the lead. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Biden leads nationally by 19 points, taking 34 percent support. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE (D-Mass.), who will find herself taking center stage tonight, sits second with 15 percent (The Hill). 


While much of the attention is on this round of debates, some campaigns are looking ahead to September with the goal of reaching the increased threshold for inclusion at the next debate in Houston. 


Having already met the polling prerequisites, Booker announced Monday that his team reached the 130,000 donors needed to put him on the stage. Andrew YangAndrew YangEvelyn Yang shares that she was sexually assaulted by doctor Buttigieg campaign reaches agreement with staff union Panel: Is Andrew Yang playing to win with Dave Chappelle endorsement and Iowa bus tour? MORE also announced that he qualified after earning 2 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. He had already met the donor requirements, making him and Booker the seventh and eighth candidates to qualify (CNN).


Heading into this evening, 2020 campaigns released a number of policy proposals on all kinds of topics. Warren stayed true to her claim that she has “a plan for that” Monday, announcing her plan to rewrite how trade deals are negotiated (CNBC). Looking for a boost, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperHickenlooper raised .8 million for Colorado Senate bid in fourth quarter of 2019 George Conway group releases ad targeting GOP senator: 'You're just another Trump servant' The 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 MORE announced his plan to strengthen rural communities, including an expansion of broadband access (The Hill). 


As for Harris, she released her own “Medicare for All” plan, drawing attacks from Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE (I-Vt.) (The Hill). 


Along with Warren, those taking part tonight are Sanders, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFormer insurance executive: 'Medicare for all' would eliminate jobs that are 'not needed' Buttigieg says he's proud to be a part of US system amid UK royal family drama Buttigieg asked about 'Mayo Pete' memes by New York Times ed board MORE, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders says he's concerned about lost campaign time during impeachment trial Sanders touts vote against Trump trade deal backed by primary rivals New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE (D-Minn.), Hickenlooper, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanOffice of Technology Assessment: It's time for a second coming Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far GM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio MORE (D-Ohio), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyElizabeth Warren moves 'bigly' to out-trump Trump DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage Bloomberg decides to skip Nevada caucuses MORE (D-Md.), Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson drops out of 2020 race Bill Press: Don't forget about Amy 2020 Democrats: Iran airstrike 'reckless,' 'could cost countless lives' MORE and Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockBrent Budowsky: Bloomberg should give billion to Democrats Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive MORE, who will be making his inaugural debate appearance. 


The debates are scheduled for 8 p.m. CNN will host this go-around, with Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperSteyer says 'grassroots organizing' in Nevada, South Carolina got him on debate stage Pentagon chief says he 'didn't see' intelligence suggesting Iran planned to attack four US embassies Ex-White House press, military officials call on Grisham to restart regular briefings MORE, Dana BashDana BashEvelyn Yang shares that she was sexually assaulted by doctor Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' Republicans attack Pelosi for impeachment stalemate MORE and Don LemonDon Carlton LemonAnderson Cooper, Andy Cohen paired for third straight CNN's New Year Eve CNN's Lemon stunned by 'stupid, juvenile' Trump-Thanos meme: 'Are you people insane?' Biden urges senators to have 'courage' for impeachment trial MORE serving as moderators.


Politico: Warren and Bernie’s awkward truce faces its biggest test yet. 


The New York Times: Why Joe Biden’s age worries some Democratic allies and voters.


George F. Will: Some questions for the Democratic candidates.


NBC News: What 2020 Democrats learned from their first debate and how some are sharpening their attacks for the second. 


McClatchy: CNN’s Jeff Zucker once feted Kamala Harris. Will that help or hurt in 2020?


The New York Times: Ahead of debates, Pennsylvania Democrats lean more pragmatic than progressive.





CONGRESS: With the president’s selection of Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate Graham: Not 'wise' for House Republicans to serve on Trump trial team MORE (R-Texas) to replace Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsSchiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Rod Rosenstein joins law and lobbying firm DHS issues bulletin warning of potential Iranian cyberattack MORE as director of national intelligence, attention now turns to the Senate, where there are questions over a relatively unknown lawmaker.


When asked about Ratcliffe’s expected nomination on Monday, many Senate Republicans chose to say little. 


“I don’t know him. I haven’t looked at his background,” said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCollins says she's 'likely' to support calling witnesses for impeachment trial Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico MORE (R-Utah). “I’ll be looking forward to doing a review of his qualifications and experience, but not having known him before now, I really can’t comment on his nomination.”


“I don’t know John. I’ve met him a couple of times, seen him on TV,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Senators set for briefing on cyber threats from Iran MORE (R-Wis.), adding that he still has to examine his background. 


One senator who spoke highly of Ratcliffe is Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE (R-Fla.), who noted that he has gotten to know the Texas congressman on a personal level, though he doesn’t know a ton about his record either. 


“Everywhere he’s ever been he’s done a good job and is a smart guy, professional,” Rubio said when one reporter inquired if Ratcliffe was too partisan for the job. “I don’t know how my colleagues feel, obviously. We’ll have some work to do,” he added.


As The New York Times notes, Trump and Senate Republicans have little margin for error if Ratcliffe is nominated. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' Ocasio-Cortez accuses Rand Paul of taking climate change comments out of context, compares GOP agenda to 'Spaceballs' plot MORE (R-Ky.) is unlikely to support any nominee for the post, meaning they can lose only two GOP votes if Democrats oppose him unanimously.


As for Democrats, they didn’t waste any time. Speaking on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it GOP senator: 2020 candidates must recuse themselves from impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.) labeled Ratcliffe a “partisan shill,” adding that it would be a “grave mistake for the Senate to elevate this partisan warrior” to serve as director. 


As Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers write, Ratcliffe grew from being an unknown back-bencher to a prominent House Republican over the course of two years, in large part because of his staunch defense of the president during the GOP-led investigation into FBI and Justice Department decision-making during the 2016 election, headlined by his questioning of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE last week. 


The Associated Press: Doubts emerge about Trump pick for U.S. intelligence chief.


ABC News: Trump’s pick for intelligence director misrepresented role in anti-terror case. 





> DCCC chaos: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was beset by turmoil Monday after a series of internal meetings led to the exodus of six senior staffers amid complaints from House Democrats about the lack of staff diversity and DCCC Chairwoman Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Ocasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm DCCC rakes in .4 million in December MORE’s (D-Ill.) inability to keep promises to various factions of the House Democratic Caucus. 


After a series of stories, Politico reported late Monday that after Allison Jaslow resigned as executive director, five additional senior staffers followed suit after a lengthy meeting at party headquarters. Bustos attended the session after flying back to Washington. 


The episode underscores the level of discontent with Bustos throughout the House Democratic ranks. According to one House Democrat, Bustos made promises to lawmakers of all stripes in her bid to take over the reigns from Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a main reason for the fallout she and the committee are experiencing only seven months after she took over as chair. 


“It’s the Monday Night Massacre at DCCC,” one lawmaker said. “Cheri campaigned as all things to all people, Telling blue dogs one thing, telling progressives another. So inevitably once in office she would disappoint them.”


Among some, the committee’s day of meetings was a source of mockery, especially after a largely drama-free cycle under Luján, the No. 4 House Democrat, who ultimately landed the plane last cycle en route to taking back the House.


More than anything, Democrats believe the party’s campaign apparatus needs an infusion of know-how at the highest levels. As one external source put it: “They need some adults in there.”


The committee released a statement late Monday announcing that Jacqueline Newman would take over as executive director on an interim basis and that the committee’s executive council will conduct a search for a new permanent executive director. According to one senior aide, Bustos has empowered the senior staffers on the council “to offer recommendations,” adding that she “followed their recommendations in this restructure” (The Hill). 


> Saudi Arabia: The Senate failed on Monday to override vetoes by the president that would have blocked his arms deal with Saudi Arabia, dealing another setback to lawmakers trying to target Riyadh. 


Senators voted 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41 on the override attempts, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to nix Trump’s veto, marking the third, fourth and fifth time Congress has tried (and failed) to override a Trump veto this year.    


The arms deal, which Trump announced publicly in June, is estimated to be worth more than $8 billion. Trump used an “emergency” provision in the Arms Export Control Act to bypass the 30-day congressional notification requirement to make the deal (The Hill).


The Hill: Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Overnight Health Care: Trump knocks 'mini Mike Bloomberg' over health care | Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads | Oklahoma sues opioid distributors MORE’s (D-Wash.) move raises impeachment pressure on Schumer. 


Politico: Judge seeks compromise in fight over Trump’s state tax returns.


WHITE HOUSE: Trump extended a weekend of Twitter bashing aimed at Baltimore and a powerful African American committee chairman, Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel Democratic challenger on Van Drew's party switch: 'He betrayed our community' MORE (D-Md.), by lashing out at the Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday, accusing him of hating “Whites & Cops” and of being a “con man.” Sharpton fired back from Baltimore hours after Trump’s tweet, saying the president has a “particular venom for blacks and people of color” (The Hill).


The Hill: Trump says he’ll meet with “inner-city pastors” amid the racial controversies he stirred.


The Hill: House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (R-N.C.) insists neither Trump nor colleague Cummings is a racist.


Niall Stanage: With Trump constantly dialing up the rhetoric on race, just how inflammatory could the atmosphere become, and how dangerous is it for the nation?


The Atlantic: What Elijah Cummings once told Trump in private.


The Associated Press: After Trump’s attacks against Cummings, the president asked advisers on Monday how the tweets played on television.


The Associated Press: Suburban female voters recoil as Trump dives into racial politics.


The president’s critics continued this week to point to his son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens Kushner: When you work for Trump 'you don't make the waves, he makes the waves' Trump scheduled to attend Davos amid impeachment trial MORE, as a Baltimore rental property owner with a less-than-sterling reputation (“The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville,’” ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, May 2017). 


> Clemency: Trump on Monday commuted the prison sentence of Ronen Nahmani, a non violent, first-time offender, citing “extenuating circumstances” involving his family. He was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to distribute a synthetic drug known as spice. Trump, who commuted the sentence of another inmate and pardoned five others on Monday, cited Nahmani’s bipartisan advocates in Congress and in the legal community, who recommended his release (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Trump’s intelligence shake-up could be his most dangerous move yet, by David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist, The Washington Post. 


Climate policy is expensive, but so is climate change, by Shahir Masri, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson; Briahna Gray, national press secretary for the Sanders presidential campaign; Emma Vigeland, correspondent with “The Young Turks,” who previews the Detroit debates this week; New Hampshire political reporter Paul Steinhauser, who expands on his recent Concord Monitor interview with Warren; and Elizabeth Spiers, founder of The Insurrection, who has written about House Democrats and impeachment deliberations. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House is in recess through August and will return to Washington on Sept. 9.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a 10 a.m. hearing on the nomination of U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten has been accused of sexual assault by Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser (The Hill). ...The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee meets at 10 a.m. for a hearing about "Regulatory Frameworks for Digital Currencies and Blockchain." ...The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hears testimony at 10 a.m. from Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, about "Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: What Is Required to Improve Conditions?"  


The president will speak this morning in Jamestown, Va., to mark the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly. Trump will sign legislation titled the “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service (LEGION) Act” at 4 p.m.


Vice President Pence heads to Lancaster, Ohio, to deliver remarks this morning at Magna Seating, a mobility technology company that supplies the automotive industry and expects to create 300 jobs. Pence returns to Washington today.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program MORE, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE, is in Shanghai through Wednesday for trade negotiations with Vice Premier Liu He of China. The president and his top advisers have tempered public expectations about the outcome (CNBC).


The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting, which will wrap up on Wednesday afternoon with a policy statement and press conference with Chairman Jerome Powell. Many on Wall Street anticipate the central bank could vote to cut the federal funds rate by a quarter-point (CNBC). And while we’re at it, read this smart New York Times article: “A recession is coming (eventually). Here’s where you’ll see it first.”


Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. releases a report on U.S. personal income and outlays in June.


Medicaid politics: Advocates for the expansion of Medicaid to provide health coverage to more low-income recipients are taking their arguments straight to the voters, a strategy that achieved some success last year in several Republican-led states. Campaigns in Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri and South Dakota are in the early stages of securing spots on ballots next year (The Hill).


Moscow: Alexei Navalny, 43, a Russian opposition leader and critic of President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to lay out impeachment case to senators next week Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Putin names successor to Medvedev as Russian prime minister MORE who is serving a 30-day sentence in jail for organizing an unsanctioned protest, was returned to his cell from a hospital on Monday after developing symptoms his physician said could be reactions to a chemical agent and his lawyer said could be poison. Tensions continue to run high in Russia; on Saturday, baton-wielding police confronted protesters in what some described as the largest unsanctioned protest in the country in a decade (The Associated Press).


Cyber security: Capital One announced on Monday that a hacker gained access to 100 million credit card applications, and investigators said thousands of Social Security and bank account numbers were taken. The FBI made one arrest (The Washington Post). ...Meanwhile, Tom Bossert, Trump’s former National Security Council homeland security specialist who departed when John BoltonJohn BoltonParnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' Collins says she's 'likely' to support calling witnesses for impeachment trial MORE arrived, is now in the private sector, trying, he says, to make malicious hackers feel some pain (WIRED). "If we don’t change the equation to something that actually stops and prevents and imposes costs on the adversary, we’re not going to get in front of the problem," Bossert said.


Bush 43: PBS’s “American Experience” documentary series will look at the “evolution” of former President George W. Bush’s character and how it shaped his time in office during a two-part program titled “W,” to air next spring (The Associated Press). 


“When history marches on, there will be a little more objective look about the totality of this administration,” Bush told an interviewer in 2008, his final year in office. “Dealing with liberating 25 million in Afghanistan is part of what I hope people think of when they look at my presidency. Being the first president to propose a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine. ...And I'm happy with Iraq. The right—the decision to [re]move Saddam Hussein was right, and this democracy is now taking root. And I'm confident that if America does not become isolationist and allow the terrorists to take back over, Iraq will succeed.”





And finally …  The next time astronauts break space-travel barriers, it may be for a manned mission to Mars. The round-trip journey is expected to take up to three years, and astronauts may have to grow some of their own food, making the question of nutrition a challenge. Eyeing a goal of food gardening, NASA plans to grow chiles in space. (For fans of the movie “The Martian,” chiles may be the botanical alternative to cinematic potatoes) (The New York Times).